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Europa League qualification means preparations for this season are like no other

02 Jul | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
Europa League qualification means preparations for this season are like no other

West Ham's Head of Medical and Sports Science Stijn Vandenbroucke takes time out from the club's training to discuss how European qualification has affected pre-season

Stijn Vandenbroucke, head of medical and sports science at West Ham United:

I can summarise my role in one word: availability. I keep the players fit. If they’re not, I need to bring them back quickly – and in the best condition.

Europa League qualification means preparations for this season are like no other.

It will be a long campaign and what we do now will have a huge impact down the line.

Firstly, you have to recover from the season that’s past. A footballer’s body must rest completely, both mentally – don’t underestimate this aspect – and physically. Three-to-four weeks is the minimum.

In normal pre-season you get six-to-seven weeks off. One month of that is just light sport and gentle activity, perhaps a game of tennis, or playing with their kids in the garden. Only injury prone or older players have less time off as they need low-grade build-up over a longer period.

The players in group one at Fota Island had only three-and-a-half weeks away in total.

We’re building slowly to the first game against Lusitans as part of pre-season – it will be like a hard training session. We can’t get the team fit in 10 days. Double sessions would only leave them tired. The team must be fresh and have ticked off the most boxes to prevent injuries.

Each player has an individual plan, based on their history, age, position, and whether they are available for that game.

The initial squad for the first qualifying round is mixed with seniors and under-21s. For the second round everyone is back into training and we will re-evaluate how best to progress.

The challenge is that they will be on different levels. For example, Diafra Sakho won’t see Mark Noble until 13 July, when Diafra will be three weeks into his training, while Mark will only have one week under his belt. There are two parallel roads to merge to get the whole squad fully prepared.

Ultimately, footballers are no different to anyone else – the most important things are simple: maintain the right lifestyle, be professional, eat healthily, go to bed at proper times, and ensure plenty of recovery.

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